Contentment and Discipline: Is it possible to have them both?
Is it possible to have both contentment and discipline in life?
These principles are stated in the Eight Limbs of Yoga, a 2000 year old text. These are found in the five niyamas: cleanliness, contentment, discipline, self-awareness, and faith.
What does “contentment” mean to you? For me, it means: contemplating the glass half full. Having gratitude for all I have. Focusing on what is going well in life. Realizing that I am doing the best I can. What does “discipline” mean to you? For me, it means: Working a little harder. Structuring my efforts to be streamlined and effective. Keeping focused on a task.
Hmmmm. What a contrast. Contentment seems to be accepting things as they are. Discipline seems to be the opposite: making things better than they are. Are contentment and discipline contradictory? No, I don’t think so. But they do form a creative tension. In these two niyamas, we are reminded to have a gentle open gratitude while also keeping an eye on a steady effort to do what we have chosen on the path toward our goals. One is about allowing the moment to be as it is, while another is building toward a future with patient steps. Many areas of life require this creative tension. In our yoga postures, called asanas, we have many chances to practice this. We can give thanks for simply having the time to practice, for having a teacher, for having willpower to come practice. We can be content that we are simply engaging in yoga (as opposed to being so blue that we are staying in bed all day). At the same time, we can be disciplined: to go through the poses even though our minds wander, even though the phone rings, and even though we may not like each pose.
So, today, whether on your yoga mat, or on the welcome mat of life, may you find a creative blend of contentment and discipline.
Alex McGee has been teaching yoga since 1994 and is grateful to her many teachers.
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